Israeli media quoted US President Joe Biden on Tuesday as saying that he is concerned about the future of Israel given the country’s judicial reform plan. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Biden said, “Like many strong supporters of Israel, I’m very concerned. I’m concerned that they get this straight. They cannot continue down this road. I’ve sort of made that clear.”
Regarding his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the White House soon, the US president confirmed that this will not happen in the near future. His statement contradicts what US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said yesterday about an invitation being issued “after Passover”.
Earlier on Tuesday, the New York Times revealed that in the 48 hours before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reluctantly postponed his efforts to reform the judiciary, “his government was bombarded by warnings from the Biden administration that he was imperilling Israel’s reputation as the true democracy at the heart of the Middle East.”
In the statement released on Sunday night, shortly after Netanyahu fired his defence minister because he differed from the government position on judicial reform, the White House noted that Biden told Netanyahu in a phone call a week ago that democratic values “have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship” and that “major changes to the system must only be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support.”
According to the newspaper, the statement was “striking because in normal times, the standard line for a White House — whether Democratic or Republican — is that Washington does not interfere in the internal politics of its allies. That has never truly been the case; it interferes all the time, usually behind the scenes. But in this case, Mr. Biden and his advisers dropped all pretences, putting themselves publicly at odds with Mr. Netanyahu, even though he cast himself in conversations with administration officials as a man desperately looking for compromise.” US administration officials said that the conversations with Netanyahu’s government were even more frank in private.
“By Sunday night,” said the New York Times, “White House officials came to two conclusions. The first was that Mr. Netanyahu had deeply miscalculated when he announced the firing of the defence minister, Yoav Gallant, who had publicly called for suspending efforts to pass the legislation that would alter how judges are appointed. The second conclusion, they said, was that Mr. Netanyahu was looking for a way out of the crisis, and benefited from telling the right-wing partners in his fragile coalition that he could not risk losing the support of Israel’s most important ally.”